The midterm elections are just a week away and candidates all over the country are busy promising their support for key public service members. For many politicians, this is an auspicious time to promise extra support for firefighters, stage a photo op with nurses, or take a tour of the local police station. Most voters recognize these players as key actors for public well-being and quickly equate this support with “concern for regular people.”
Often, the post-election reality is rarely as eloquent. Once a seat is secure, it’s easy to postpone many of these promises until the next fiscal year. Other times, even sincere intentions fall short if they’re not supported by citizens and voters. For the Firefighters and EMS Fund, each small bill and ballot measure is a renewed opportunity to advocate for our first responders – and to remind our leaders that our issues matter.
In November, voters from four different jurisdictions will get a chance to deliver this message again.
What’s At Stake for Firefighters and Emergency Services?
Life-saving assistance in the event of an emergency is an expensive business. Yet, the cost of an underfunded Emergency Department can be much more costly to society.
The following four ballot measures come from places like Northern California and suburban Michigan. Yet, they could provide substantial funds and protection for first responders around the country – provided they pass.
Antelope Valley, California: A small parcel task with big repercussions
On November 8, just as the country’s attention focuses away from the statewide midterms, voters in Mono County will need to decide on Measure H. This initiative proposes a single yearly tax of $120 per parcel of land in the area to raise funds for the local fire department. Expected to raise up to $98,600 in its first year, the money levied from Measure H will be earmarked for the following:
- Structural improvements for the local fire department
- Wildfire-related supplies
- Staffing firefighting units
- Increased training for firefighters
- Firefighting equipment
Over the past few years, residents of Mono County and the surrounding Antelope Valley have been facing more frequent and larger wildfires. This trend is expected to continue over the coming years, and firefighters must be well-equipped before next summer. Millions of dollars in property damage, as well as countless lives, are riding on this additional source of funding.
Lansing, Michigan: Do the Police, Fire Department, and Court deserve new facilities?
For most citizens (and certainly, for everyone at the FEMS), the answer would be an unequivocal yes. Andy Schor, the city’s mayor, already has a plan and a quote for it – he just needs residents to OK it on November 8.
Schor’s proposal is expected to cost approximately $175 million, for which he wants the city to borrow money. The loan would be paid within 30 years and would cost each homeowner in the city just $153 per year.
In exchange, the City of Lansing will access a new complex that will house the Police and Fire Department’s new headquarters, expand the available courtrooms, and add a modern, safer jail for District Court 54A.
These new facilities will help both Police and Firefighters coordinate more effectively and eventually save money on transport and logistics. These savings could then be used to renovate several fire stations around the city. Firefighters will then be able to access better changing rooms and new equipment.
Salem, Oregon: A simple bond to beautify the city and its protectors in one swoop
Meanwhile, in Salem, Oregon, voters will soon be asked to vote on Measure 24-474. This measure will create new City-sponsored bonds for a value of $300,000,000. The money raised from this initiative will be used to renovate streets, parks, and equipment for fire departments around the city and build new affordable housing units and a library.
This ambitious plan will likely change the face of the City of Salem, which is currently struggling to keep up with its population boom. According to the ballot summary, funding this project will require issuing bonds in multiple series, which will mature in 30 years. Regular voters will likely not see their current bond tax rate increase.
Arizona: Proposition 310 will Boost Rural Emergency Services
Last but not least, Arizona will have a Statewide measure added to its ballot on November 8: Proposition 310.
This measure aims to increase the funding available for firefighters and emergency medical services across rural Arizona, especially for residents of unincorporated communities.
Currently, major cities in Arizona, such as Phoenix and Tucson, enjoy rapid response times and relative safety in the event of a disaster. However, rural residents are often faced with a starkly different reality – and in the event of a major fire or flood, the disparity in infrastructure could cost the lives of firefighters and citizens alike. To remedy this, Proposition 310 will implement a 0.1% sales tax across the state that will go directly to fire and EMS district funding. Although it will barely constitute 1 dime for each $100 spent, it is expected to generate $150 million annually – which will go directly towards life-saving expenses.